Visa VS MasterCard: a Tale of 2 Cards

Let us compare Visa vs MasterCard – the two most global networks and the best-known brand names of the hundreds of credit cards, as well as prepaid, debit, charge, ATM, smart, cashback, travel award, balance transfer, co-branded, cash, key, virtual, and other types of card products. 

The convenience of payment cards has been appreciated by cardholders for a century. Nowadays, the two payment cards’ advantages and their shared world-wide popularity are obvious to everyone. 

Visa VS MasterCard

However, the differences between them are not clear, and the clients still hesitate when trying to choose between the Visa and MasterCard products. 

  • Are they identical? 
  • Should you have both? 
  • Isn’t just one of them sufficient? 
  • Which features of each of the two cards make the difference in a particular situation? 
  • Do the main distinctions depend on the banks that issue them? 

The question of choosing a payment card becomes particularly important when its holder is going to travel or move to another part of the world.

Twins, Yet Not Quite Identical 

Even though the Visa and the MasterCard payment networks have long ago acquired the international status, they are designed for different regions and have different basic currencies. 

Visa is a 100% US product. 

MasterCard is widely perceived as a European product, though the corporation is headquartered also in the USA. 

The currency of Visa cards is the U.S. dollar (USD).

The MasterCard currency can be the USD, or the euro (EUR), so the holder has to make the strategically important choice when ordering the card. 

Please note: Visa and MasterCard cards are accepted practically globally, and nearly any merchant takes both. But whenever you pay in the equivalent of the local currency, the cardholder account may be charged the conversion or currency exchange fees, unless the payment is conducted by the card appropriately chosen for shopping or other expenses in a particular area. 

Examples of the Visa and MasterCard cards used around the world:

  1. An owner of a card account in the Russian rubles (RUB) travels to France and pays in the local shops in euros (EUR). If he has a MasterCard, his RUB is converted into EUR. If he uses the Visa, his RUB is converted into USD, then the USD value is converted into EUR. So in this case it is more reasonable to pay by MasterCard because this payment method involves only one conversion.


MasterCard: RUB/USD/EUR

  1. An owner of a card account in Lithuanian euros (EUR) travels to Germany and pays in the local shops in euros (EUR). If he uses the Visa, his EUR is converted into USD, then back into EUR. If he has a MasterCard, there is no need for the conversion at all, as his basic currency is EUR. 


MasterCard: EUR

  1. You live and ordered your card in Los Angeles, on your trip to Washington, DC. your Visa card is better because there will be no conversion. If you use your MasterCard, the sum in USD will be converted to EUR and then back into USD. Such transaction will be more expensive because of the double conversion and the two fees.


MasterCard: USD/EUR/USD

  1. You live in Poland and have an account in Polish Zloty – PLN. When you come to the Czech Republic (where the local currency is the Czech Koruna – CZK) and pay by your MasterCard card, you will be charged some fee – the cost of the conversion from PLN to EUR, plus from EUR to SZK. However, if you pay by Visa, there can be a triple conversion (and a triple conversion fee), because there is a requirement to use EUR in the EU. So, the amounts deducted from your cards will be the result of the following conversions:


MasterCard: PLN/EUR/SZK

Please note: Since the base currencies in MasterCard system are both USD and EUR, the number of conversions will depend on where the card is used. In the U.S. the base currency will be USD, and in Europe EUR.

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Universal Leaders

Visa and MasterCard are the world’s most powerful payment processing networks. Their business scope across the world is illustrated by the following statistics:


  • accepted in more than 200 countries and territories 
  • 44 mln merchant locations worldwide
  • 60% share of the credit and debit card market
  • 336 million cardholders
  • payment cards worldwide 3.4 bil USD
  • global market share by purchase transactions 185.5 bil USD
  • Visa Inc.’s market value of $449 billion


  • accepted in more than 210 countries and territories 
  • 37 mln merchant locations worldwide
  • 30% share of the credit and debit card market
  • 231 million cardholders
  • payment cards worldwide 2.2 bil USD
  • global market share by global purchase transactions 108.4 bil USD
  • MasterCard Inc.’s market value of $324 billion 

Please note: The Visa and MasterCard corporations do not issue cards, yet their partners – banks and credit institutions, airlines, hotels and retailers – offer products bearing their logos, and they are recognized anywhere in the world.

Every Travelers’ Best Friends

If you live (or open a bank account) and move around Europe, or plan a trip to Africa, you should consider the MasterCard products. Such cards will require less conversions, and the commission will be reduced accordingly. 

If you open an account in a US bank and move in and around the USA, you should use Visa-branded products. When planning trips to Canada, South America, countries of South-East Asia, Australia, take the Visa card(s) as well. 

When earning and spending money within the same country (any), you will not feel the difference at all. So, instead of choosing between the two brands, you should focus on the following features of your cards:

  • Cashback %
  • Discount rates in stores, retail chains, clubs, airlines, etc.
  • Bonus points that can be exchanged for rewards
  • Opportunity to issue a personalized card
  • Design of your choice. 

Please note: You should also pay attention to the personal offers that come with the cards of your bank, especially if it is the issuer of cards of one payment system. This is likely to be an elite card with access to VIP-services at large. You should not miss this chance.

Multiple Options

When choosing the payment card brand and type, you should pay attention to the standard offers that are determined by the expected amount of your financial activity  and status:

1. Entry level (debit):

  •  Visa Electron
  •  MasterCard Standard

2. Classic:

  •  Visa Classic

3. Premium:

  •  Visa (Gold, Platinum)
  •  MasterCard (Gold, Platinum)

4. special offers:

  • Visa (Infinite, Signature)
  • MasterCard (World, World Elite, World Black Edition).

Please note: The more often and actively your use the card, the better terms and perks will be offered. The bank will be interested in promoting you to the status of a high-profile client with the top-class cards. However, you should analyze the advantages and costs associated with such a promotion. 

What Really Matters

Your geography

As we have mentioned above, to decide which payment card to give preference to, you should first specify and take into account your plans to move between countries in future. When choosing the destination where the currency is mainly the U.S. dollar, you should certainly choose Visa, but if it is a European zone, it will be more convenient and cost-effective to use MasterCard. 

The issuer

If you plan to use the cards within a certain country, there is no special difference in conversion costs. What will really matter to you is, if the bank offers some special perks and services to your category of clients: higher rates and interesting offers on deposits, loans on good terms, investment options. You will be most interested in the bank’s general scope, approach, and proposal; and you will be less concerned with the brand/type of just one card. 

The choice of a foreign bank for your account  will always be made by a complex of additional parameters, including the bank’s loyalty towards non-residents and the reasonable service fees, availability of online banking solutions, the language of communication, etc. In other words, the profile and the specific terms of the issuer of the card will be a more important criteria for your decision.

The products’ value-added features

If you don’t recognize any special differences between different issuers, you should choose by other parameters, more relevant to the product. You should find out the commissions or cashback rates, special discounts, availability of multiple currency cards, etc. MasterCard often offers a particularly interesting bonus program, while some particular attributes of a Visa card can be a value added strength. 

For a more detailed discussion of the criteria for selecting the issuer, the products, and the terms, please refer to our experts at the email address given at the top of this page. 

Which are the main differences between Visa and MasterCard?

VISA cards’ base currency is the US Dollar. MasterCard operates and provides the choice of two currencies – USD and EUR. Using the card in Europe involves conversion based on EUR. If the local currency in the country is linked to USD, you should use the Visa products, or MasterCard issued in EUR. Be sure to assess in advance the geography of your travel, and take into account that triple conversion fees may be charged if you have a less appropriate card. To be on the safer side, carry cards of both types and always be aware of their differences.

Which of the two payment cards – Visa или MasterCard – is more popular?

You can compare the popularity of the two payment networks by some basic criteria. In the online shopping environment there are no special preferences, the cards are equally secure and popular. As for the world-wide statistics of users, merchants, countries, etc., VISA turns out to be more popular by certain parameters, while other parameters indicate the leadership of MasterCard.

Has the COVID-19 pandemic influenced the payment cards maintenance?

In March 2020, MasterCard was the first of all payment networks to encourage banks to continue servicing expired cards. It was followed by a similar announcement made by Visa. The final decision on servicing or rejecting the expired cards this year remains with each bank individually. To find out if your expired card can be used in case the quarantine restrictions do not allow your  visit the bank for its extension, you should contact the bank staff. 
When planning to open an account and order a particular type of the payment card, you are welcome to ask our expert’s advice on this matter. Their sound professional recommendations will help you make a balance decision.

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